KURT MAFLIN eventually went out to Joe Perry at the German Masters following a morale-boosting victory in Berlin over world No2 Mark Selby - and admitted he has a big decision to make after the World Championships.
The Lewisham-born Norwegian, now 30, is having his third and by far most successful crack at the main professional tour after a career to date that Maflin himself claims has seen “underachievement” given talent that has seen him among other things make two 147 breaks.
Maflin almost gave up snooker altogether after moving to Norway at 20 for love, and today has a young family with now-wife Anita in their Oslo base. Then there was the car crash four years ago that saw a six-inch plate and seven screws inserted in his shoulder, hampering his game.
But despite a good life and the willing support of his club Oslo Snooker, Maflin lacks the same level of high-quality practice partners as his tour rivals based in the UK, and given this is effectively the last chance to do his ability justice is at a significant crossroads.
The key to most sporting success is creating the right environment for talent to flourish, and Maflin is far from sure that is the case – even if leaving his adopted home of Norway and uprooting his family would be a huge wrench.
Maflin, at his highest ever ranking of No51, has seen his former junior contemporaries, the likes of Selby, Shaun Murphy and Ricky Walden, go on to great things with ranking title wins and in the Leicester Jester’s case multiple successes at the Masters.
He said: “It is a real possibility that I will move back over to the UK, if that is where I can give my career the best chance. If I get into the top 32, top 24 then that is more likely.
“We bought a house last February and in Norway you can’t sell it for two years, so that has to be taken care of.
“I feel like I have underachieved and that if I had lived in the UK all the way through I would have done a lot better.
“I first turned pro when I was about 16 and I believe that had I stayed in the UK there is not a doubt in my mind that I would have won a couple of tournaments by now.
“Being a professional is probably about putting yourself in the right environment to do yourself justice, and maybe I am not.
“In the UK you have the academies in Sheffield and Gloucester, players to play against. It is hard to play against top players in Norway, the standard isn’t as high as it needs to be.
“Basically what it means is I arrive at tournaments and feel cold even after a lot of practice, I don’t know in what nick I am really in until I have played games against pros.
“When I was a junior my contemporaries were Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy, Ricky Walden, Tom Ford…we were all progressing together and getting to finals.
“They kicked on and I didn’t take it seriously enough, moved to Norway and it probably wasn’t the best move for my career.
“That made beating Mark in Berlin a sweet one, especially as he keeps calling me Keith as a joke, after Joe Johnson called me Keith in commentary one time.
“It’s a bit like Only Fools and Horses, when Trigger calls Rodney ‘Dave’.
“It is a big issue in my life and career, my wife would move if that’s what I really wanted, and our little boy would get into the swing of things after a while.
“But it’s just a huge move. Norway is a fantastic country, I have support there too at Oslo snooker, but I have to make a decision after the World Championships are finished.
“In 20 years I don’t want to be looking back wondering what could have been, especially after stopping playing for a couple of years. But I just need to keep winning and plugging away.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos